The JCC, located in Vestal, N.Y., had the predicament of a failing indoor pool dehumidifier averaging $10,000-per-month maintenance costs, an outdated air distribution system, a fast-deteriorating roof, and worse yet, no repair budget.
The 50,000-square-foot recreational facility’s focal point - the 8,000-square-foot natatorium - was averaging three IAQ complaints weekly, lifeguards had respiratory complaints after long exposures, pool attendance was slipping, and electric bills from inefficient operation were steadily climbing, according to Marcia Brownlow, the JCC assistant director.
“At one point, we had considered closing the pool all together because of the operational expense and the emerging safety concerns of the roof structure,” said Brownlow.
However the 40-year-old center’s ace-in-the-hole was former board member and mechanical contractor Michael Azersky, who conceived a plan of energy incentives, energy-efficiency improvements, and creative financing that would provide a replacement HVAC system and new roof virtually for free.
NYSERDA, DEHUMIDIFIER TO THE RESCUEAzersky, the vice president of J & J Sheet Metal, Vestal, N.Y., knew the center’s pool had become a money pit of dehumidifier maintenance costs consisting of leak repairs, component replacements, and other tasks, not to mention the operating inefficiency.
Azersky, along with Steve Brandt, president of manufacturer’s representative D.F. Brandt, Kirkville, N.Y., introduced the JCC to an energy incentive program provided by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), Albany, N.Y., a public benefit corporation created in 1975 by the state legislature. The $18,654 from NYSERDA’s New York Energy $martSM Commercial/Industrial Performance Program enabled the JCC to start the $155,000 improvement.
The incentive was based on an annual reduction of 155,450 kWh provided by a new Dry-O-Tron® RS-080 dehumidifier that uses heat recovery to heat the pool water. The dehumidifier, manufactured by Dectron, also provides air conditioning and heating to the space.
Besides heat recovery, the center is saving approximately $1,400 per month in electric and gas costs versus the old unit as a result of the dehumidifier’s state-of-the-art technology, according to Azersky. The energy savings is actually covering the loan payment for the project. In the end, the cost of retrofitting the center’s natatorium is virtually free, said Brandt.
SAVING ENERGY AND MONEYAccording to Azersky, one reason for energy savings is the RS-080’s scroll compressor, which is designed to be 30-35 percent more efficient than the previous circa 1980’s era dehumidifier’s reciprocating compressor.
Another energy-saving factor is the dehumidifier’s Smart Saver technology, designed to recover heat from exhaust air to pre-heat outside air. According to Azersky, this is invaluable in heating wintertime outside air that is inherently dry and helps cut down on more energy-demanding compressor run-times during the mechanical dehumidification process.
“Because of today’s increased outside air standards by ASHRAE versus the lesser outside air requirements the existing 25-year-old unit complied with, Smart Saver technology is vital to the overall energy savings,” said Brandt.
Included in the retrofit was the replacement of the existing roof with a $45,000 high-efficiency membrane roof, which Brandt said reduced solar loading and helped further the center’s operating cost reduction. The roof, which was already replaced once in the 1980’s, had corroded again from excessive humidity due to the original natatorium’s outdated 1980’s airflow design.
The original ductwork airflow design had many stratification points throughout the natatorium. Azersky replaced the two metal duct runs - one over the deep end of the pool and a longer run over the length of the pool that reached only 25 percent of the window surfaces - with a perimeter fabric duct system. The fabric duct system passes within one foot of the windows to properly broadcast air across the surfaces, he said.
Azersky also relocated the dehumidifier operation to an exterior location to better supply the ductwork more efficiently, increase return airflow, and vacate a significant amount of mechanical room square footage that is now used for badly needed storage.
“We went from a split system to a self-contained package unit that just makes more sense today because all the sophisticated processes are interfaced and installed at the factory for single source responsibility,” said Azersky.
OPERATING JUST FINETo help reduce financing costs further, the JCC obtained a 3.75 percent low-interest loan for the project through the New York Energy $mart Loan Fund Program with M&T Bank that was four points below the lender rate.
“We figured out that the monthly operational savings between the old and the new unit actually covered the cost of her new loan payment for the project costs,” said Brandt.
Energy incentives, which are available from many utilities across the nation, can be useful tools used by contractors to help clients afford newer energy-efficient HVAC systems, said Brandt.
“There’s one thing for sure,” said Brandt. “This project wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the NYSERDA dollars.”
Today the JCC has no IAQ complaints and the pool has once again become the center’s focal point. “It’s like night and day,” said Brownlow. “We went from a jungle environment of sweating walls, poor indoor air comfort, and respiratory problems to a very pleasant atmosphere that now attracts membership.”